How can your small business recruit that outstanding job candidate?

For some positions, only a great candidate will do. That’s when recruiting becomes challenging for a small business owner. It’s tough to compete with the generous salaries, benefits, and long-term growth opportunities a large business can offer. However, there are ways to help assure your small business can attract the great people it needs.


It may sound counterintuitive, but even when faced with a great candidate, you must keep the power in your own court. For nearly any job, you will find more than one great person to fill it. Even if you think you’re talking with the next Steve Jobs, maintain your cool so that you negotiate from a position of strength.


That being said, to attract, hire and retain great candidates, it’s important to understand what employees want. Not every employee values the same things, so you should complement your understanding of what employees in general want with specific knowledge of what your star candidate seeks. Then, within your sphere of possibilities, create an appealing situation that great candidates (and employees!) will love.


 Many experts claim that salary is not the ultimate consideration for employees but it undoubtedly matters. It certainly looms large for a small business owner who has to pay it! Ask your outstanding candidate outright about the compensation she seeks, and then offer the best salary you can. But don’t pay more than you are comfortable doing. Instead, agree to assess and offer increases or bonuses later on, based on the employee’s and company’s performance. It goes without saying that not every apparent star proves out.


• Time is a great perk. Offer the best work/life balance you can while maintaining the environment your company requires. (As I write this, one of van Schouwen Associates’ own star employees has left early to coach youth soccer.)


• Provide reasonable scheduling flexibility to responsible candidates and employees, and offer the occasional ability to work from home for jobs and candidates that merit it.


 Make sure the job provides the ability to make a real difference, whether this involves predicting and acting on business trends, managing important company programs, giving back to the community, or other life-enhancing activities.


• Even a smaller company can offer long-term growth and opportunity to the right person. At a small company, your great candidate may, over time, get very close to the top of the organization. 


• Consider the ESOP. For some companies, the attractions of an employee-owned company help bring in and keep excellent candidates.


• Add long-term benefits such as 401 (k) or profit sharing. Not every candidate is planning for retirement, but everyone should be. Do your best to provide a benefits package that meets needs your candidate recognizes today as well as needs he may be deferring.


• Include a session with your other employees as part of the interview process, and sit that one out. Let the candidate ask the staff questions. (You will hope you’ve created a work environment that allows your current people to convey genuine and contagious enthusiasm!)


Now relax. Make the offer. My vote is that you make it a firm offer and don’t negotiate the salary or benefits once you’ve put them forth.


Remember, if having done all this, the candidate turns you down, this was not the right person for this job, at this time, at this company. Move on to the next great candidate, and make it happen.



Michelle van Schouwen is president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company based in Longmeadow, MA. The company is known for vSALaunch, its proprietary, modular and scalable system for B2B marketing launches, as well as its expertise in integrated marketing for B2B. All its employees are stars.

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